Tourism industry, local businesses say lack of Mardi Gras parades will have an economic impact

2021 Mardi Gras changes and impacts amid pandemic
Mardi Gras helps local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
Mardi Gras helps local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mardi Gras is good to the local hospitality industry, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up plans for the 2021 carnival season. Because of the easily transmissible virus, parades on city streets will not be possible.

Kelly Schulz, Senior Vice President of Communications and PR for New Orleans and Company, a major tourism marketing organization in the city, says Mardi Gras is a huge economic benefit to not only the city but surrounding areas, and not having the parades will have an effect.

“We have done surveys in the past that shows Mardi Gras brings about a billion dollars in economic impact to the region, so obviously it’ll have an economic impact on the region on top of what’s already been a difficult year with COVID-19,” Schulz said.

It is not just Mardi Gras day but the other days of the parades leading up to it that helps to fill up hotels and restaurants.

“Our hotels, many of which sell out during that time period,” Schulz said.

Schulz said New Orleans and Company will still do some Mardi Gras-related promotions because the carnival season is a huge part of the city’s culture and history.

“While it’s hard to predict the economic loss, we are optimistic there are still some things we can promote and be realistic about, you know, Mardi Gras will be different in 2021 and as we figure out what’s it’s going to look like we’ll work to, you know, customize our messages and our promotional plans accordingly,” she said.

Businesses along the traditional parade route count on the throngs of people the parades attract.

McKinley Eastman is the managing partner of Superior Grill which is located on the famed St. Charles Avenue.

“This would be our 25th Mardi Gras and we every year make a lot of changes and adapt the restaurant to handle the influx of the business and the crowds and everybody, so this is going to be a huge change for us,” Eastman said.

Not having parades will also impact the restaurant’s profits.

“Absolutely, you know, I think that’s a real busy time of year and we’re from open to close, packed every day,” Eastman said.

Still, there is hope that some type of Mardi Gras celebration can happen, even if it is later in 2021.

“I guess there is some hope that we’ll get the vaccine in New Orleans and then we’ll be able to accommodate Mardi Gras at some point,” Eastman said.

The coronavirus aside, there is evidence that some visitors are willing to visit the city.

“We’re seeing a lot of demand for New Orleans, a lot of love for New Orleans. I think travelers are excited to return to the city and even those who are returning now we constantly stress the safety of wear your mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing,” Schulz said.

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